From my lovely old Victorian garden, I see my neighbour's elderflowers tumble over my wall like a spilt glass of cream soda. Fortunate it's a weekend I am not working, so at first light I steal them, shake them to dislodge any creepy crawlies, then dip the frothy white heads into a light batter of beaten egg whites and flour before frying them in hot oil. Drained and dusted with caster sugar, they are the lightest of Sunday breakfasts, puffing up like deep-fried cumulus. Along with the nettles I have not yet made into tea and the dandelions that could - but never will be - salad, these form the free bounty of my beloved garden, the nearest I get to the world of hedgerow cooking. Being a very urban cook, I have never quite got into the cowslip wine and wildhop vinegar life, but that doesn't stop me wanting the best of it.
Use a really light batter for these, otherwise the effect is somewhat lost. This one barely covers the flowers and cooks very quickly. You could dip the flowers into brandy before battering, or even a little sweet wine.
for the batter:
3½ oz / 100g plain flour
2 tablespoons sunflower oil
175ml sparkling mineral water
a tablespoon of caster sugar
an egg white
oil for deep drying
16 large elderflowers
a plate thickly dusted with caster sugar
Sift the flour into a large basin then add the oil and water, beating slowly to a thick paste, then stir in the sugar. Set aside for 30 minutes - the resting time is essential for a light batter. Just before you plan to fry the elderflowers, beat the egg white and fold it gently into the batter. Leave the elderflowers to soak in a sink of cold water. This will not affect their flavour and they are easy to shake dry. Make certain there are no aphids in the flowers. When they are clean, get the oil on to heat up. Snip the flower heads into small stems.
Test the oil to make sure it is hot enough - it should send a cube of bread golden in seconds - then dip the elderflowers into the batter and then lower them into the hot oil. Hold them under the oil by pushing down on the stem. The batter will bubble up around the flowers like little pearls. Fry till the batter is pale gold and crisp, then lift out of the fat and dip straight into the caster sugar. Eat the fritters while they are hot and crisp.